Monday, December 31, 2018

EYE CANDY: Michael Thurston (5th time!)

Mike Thurston has well over 570,000 followers on his YouTube channel where he "teaches you how to lift properly"and a mere 414,000 followers at his Instagram account (@mikethurston). He is one of my very favorite Eye Candy finds, up there with Jacob Sumana, Simeon Panda, Raciel Castro, Adrian Conrad and Roberto Oliveira.

Hopefully, I will find more pictures of these favorites and discover some more that I can post to this blog in 2019.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Age of War (Legends of the First Empire, #3) by Michael J . Sullivan

Sullivan does it again! Age of War is the third book in the “Legends of the First Empire” series, which I understand is now going to consist of two linked trilogies instead of the five books the author initially planned. The first two books, Age of Myth and Age of Swords.

The Legends of the First Empire series is set in a time thousands of years before the events of the author's Riyria Revelations. It is based around conflicts between the three races of civilization in the word of Elan (Fhrey or elves, Dergs or dwarves, Rhunes or humans) as societies clash and develop in the equivalent to our Bronze Age. Since Fhrey can basically live for thousands of years, there are characters in this series that survive and greatly impact the future we have already been exposed to in the original Riyria trilogy.

In spite of (or in some cases, because of) this, the fate of many of the characters in Age of War have heightened suspense for the reader. Ever since the first book, Age of Myth  we have been following the story of Persephone, Raithe, Suri, Roan and Brin (who are all humans) and Arion, Nyphron and Mawendule (who are all elves). It is a testament to Sullivan’s craft that he is able to place most of these characters in mortal danger due to a war and kill off more than one(!) while still making the book very satisfying and thrilling.

Some other readers expressed disappointment about the third book in the series and I agree that there are significant differences between Age of War and the others that precede it. For example, there is a noticeable increase in the (heterosexual) romantic pairings in Age of War between a few of the main characters but often also between important secondary characters. Some might find this discomfiting and although I don’t think it’s a net positive aspect of the book I don’t think it significantly detracts from my overall enjoyment of the story. So I would strongly disagree with the notion of any disappointment about the level of quality of Age of WarThe central question of how (and whether) humans will survive a war with the much more powerful Fhrey is suspenseful enough to cause Age of War to be as excellent as the other entries in the series. I can't wait to read the rest!

Title: Age of War (Legends of the First Empire, #3).
Michael J. Sullivan.
Paperback: 420 pages.
 Del Rey Books.
Date Published: July 3, 2018.
Date Read: December 14, 2018.

GOODREADS RATING: ★★  (5.0/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: A (4.0/4.0).


Monday, December 24, 2018

EYE CANDY: Lazar Angelov (#3)

Lazar Angelov is a Bulgarian bodybuilder who has appeared as eye Candy twice before (September 30, 2013 and July 15, 2013). He has almost 6 million followers on Instagram and some of the most defined abs I have ever seen. To call it a "six-pack" would be quite an underestimate!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan

Age of Myth is the first book in a new epic fantasy series written by Michael J. Sullivan, the author of the Riyria Revelations and the Riyria Chronicles. When the series was announced back in 2016 it was said to be five books but that has now been extended to six.

I gave all three books (Theft of Swords, Rise of Empire, and Heir of Novron) in the Riyria Revelations 5 stars so I looked forward to reading The Legends of the First Empire series as well, which is set in a time period a couple thousand years before Riyria.

Age of Myth is very different from Ryria, and, in my opinion, it is not as successful. Primarily this is because it is not as complex or compelling as the Riyria books. This could be because it is only half the size of any of those books and thus there is not enough space to produce an equivalent level of complexity as appears in the Riyria books. Despite this, I am not saying Age of Myth, is bad, just that it is not as flawless and enjoyable as those books.

The three main characters are Arion, a Fhrey (elf) who is a master of the Art (magic); Raithe, a Rhune (human) who is known as the God Killer for showing that it is actually physically possible for Fhreys to be slain; Malcolm (a Fhrey-enslaved Rhune who is forced to go on the run with Raithe), Suri (a teenaged mystic and orphaned child who grew up in the forest) and Persephone (the widow of the chieftain of a Rhune encampment called Dahl Ren).

Overall, my favorite characters were Suri and Arion. I definitely like that Sullivan does an excellent job with his female characters. One of the best features of Riyria was the camaraderie and humor of Hadrian and Royce and Sullivan tries to replicate this with Raithe and Malcolm but since they do not have as prominent a role in the book it doesn't work as well.

Overall, I'm glad I read Book 1 of the new series and will definitely read the rest of the new saga. But I am looking forward more to reading Sullivan's other trilogy featuring Hadrian and Royce (the Riyria Chronicles) than the rest of the Legend of the First Empire.

Title: Age of Myth.
Michael J. Sullivan.
Paperback: 432 pages.
 Del Rey.
Date Published: June 28, 2016.
Date Read: September 13, 2016.

★★  (4.0/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.67/4.0).


Wednesday, December 19, 2018

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: Let Reason Prevail...

The Freedom from Religion Foundation is making banners available this holiday to combat the overwhelming religiosity of the occasion. One of these appeared in San Diego's Balboa Park next to a nativity display The banner reads:

 “There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. 
 There is only our natural world.
 Religion is but a myth & superstition that hardens hearts & enslaves minds.”

For lots of people, seeing such thoughts expressed in public may seem shocking or disrespectful but from my perspective as a godless person this reaction demonstrates how prous the wall between the church and the state have become.

Monday, December 17, 2018

EYE CANDY: Jordan Torres

Jordan Torres is a smoking hot professional male model with nearly 250,000 followers on Instagram (@officialjt). You're welcome!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Radiohead and Janet Jackson Among 2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees

This week comes the news that two of my favorite musical artists, Janet Jackson and Radiohead, have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019. It was Janet's 3rd attempt and Radiohead's first. The other 2019 inductees are: Stevie Nicks, The Cure, Def Leppard, Roxy Music and The Zombies.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Persons Unknown (DS Manon, #2) by Susie Steiner

Persons Unknown is the second book in the British police procedural series written by Susie Steiner featuring Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw that started with Missing, Presumed. Probably 3.5+ stars but rounded up because I like the idea of the series continuing with Manon, Manon's adopted son  and her co-worker Detective Sergeant Davy Walker.

It's curious to me how very different this second book (
Persons Unknown) is from the first in form and feel. I think they both used the form of alternating point of views chapters but in this one the choice of the POV characters was quite unusual. Of course we had ones from Davy and Manon but for some reason we never had one from her son, even though he plays a significant role in the main character's life. I hope that changes in the next book.

The central mystery in
Persons Unknown was pretty compelling but it feels somewhat unfair that the author decided to exploit the willingness of the police (and everyone else) to associate black boys with criminality to put Fly in such a bad situation. That was a really horrible thing to do. Getting a first hand view of the juvenile detention system in Britian was eye-opening and extremely depressing.

Of course even more bad things happen as well as the plot develops, but surprisingly there are also some good things that happen (particularly involving Manon's love life).

Another interesting aspect of the book is  what a large role infidelity plays in the book. I was also surprised by the ubiquity of CCTV footage from so many public places that the police can take advantage of to help them solve crimes.

The eventual resolution of the central mystery was a but surprising in that we find out "who dun it" but they don't get punished!

I am very interested to see where Steiner takes these characters in the next book. I hope Fly is still in the picture (and Mark)!

Title: Persons Unknown.
Susie Steiner.
Paperback: 368 pages.
 The Borough Press.
Date Published: July 4, 2017.
Date Read: July 19, 2017.

GOODREADS RATING: ★★½☆  (3.5/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.67/4.0).


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: Poll Says Atheism Is No Longer An Impediment To Elected Office

Previously I have blogged (repeatedly) about Americans uneasiness with voting for an atheist for president. However, a new survey from the American Humanist shows that progressive voters (who are pro-marriage equality and pro-choice) are happy to support an agnostic or atheist candidate for elected office.
The survey finds that 72% of liberal Democrats would vote for an atheist on the ballot. 74% of them would support a more generic “non-religious” or “agnostic” candidate.
Also interesting? 14% of those voters said they would be more likely to support an atheist while only 7% say the opposite.
Hat/tip to Friendly Atheist.

Friday, December 07, 2018

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Black AIDS Institute Names New Executive Director (Raniyah Copeland)

The new executive director of the Black AIDS Institute has been named as Raniyah Copeland. The president and chief executive officer of BAI has been Phil Wilson since its founding in 1999. The BAI is the nation's first  and only "national HIV/AIDS think tank focused on Black communities." Copeland, 34, has worked at The Institute for the last ten years. Wilson announced his retirement last year and the board conducted an extensive 10-month process to find a new leader for the organization.

The announcement was made at BAI's signature event "Heroes in the Struggle" last Saturday December 1.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

Missing, Presumed is the first book in the Detective Sargeant Manon Bradshaw series by Susie Steiner. This is a British police procedural murder mystery; if you like the work of Peter Robinson, Deborah Crombie, Val McDermid or Adrian Mckinty I suspect you'll like this. I wouldn't say she's in Tana French's league but I think it's possible she could get there. Missing, Presumed is a strong debut (and as I have said before, oftentimes the first book in a series is not the best) so it is notable how good the first entry is.

The story is about a missing blonde white woman named Edith Hinds whose parents regularly socialize with the Home Secretary (chief law enforcement officer of the country, basically the American equivalent of the Attorney General). The plot takes a surprisingly sapphic turn as bodies start showing up during the missing persons investigation, however none of the bodies are of the missing girl. There are other surprises I did not see coming that make this book a satisfying read.

DS Manon Bradshaw is quite an interesting character as the protagonist. She has numerous bad habits and is more than a bit of an asshole. But she also is incredibly generous (by the end of the book). Along with DS Bradshaw we get first person accounts from other members of the police team (DC Davy Walker, DI Harriet Harper) as well as from the mother of the missing girl (Miriam Hinds).

The fact that the main character is a 39-year-old single female who is desperately lonely is an interesting aspect of the book which may put off some but to me (favorably) differentiated Missing, Presumed from other books in the same genre.

(I received this book from NetGalley in return for an objective review.)

Title: Missing, Presumed.
Susie Steiner.
Paperback: 400 pages.
 The Borough Press.
Date Published: February 25, 2016.
Date Read: January 15, 2017.

GOODREADS RATING: ★½☆  (3.5/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: A-/B+ (3.5/4.0).


Monday, December 03, 2018

EYE CANDY: Jacob Sumana (5th time!)

Jacob Sumana is one of my Eye Candy favorites, since he has made four(!) previous appearances here (December 30, 2013; March 31, 2014; February 2, 2015May 9, 2016). He has over 300,000 followers on Instagram (@jacobsumana). Enjoy!


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